Tag Archives: boundaries


I’m feeling frustrated with myself.  In particular, my difficulty setting boundaries is frustrating me.  Also the fact that everything is triggering me right now, even things that wouldn’t ordinarily trigger me.

I think the trigger for all of this was a visit from ICM today.  She sprung a surprise “health and safety” inspection on me.  It sounds innocuous when I write it, but for me it’s not.

Since I got away from my family, having my own space has been critical for my sanity.  When I was growing up, I was allowed privacy only when my parents decided I did.  My father would come into my bedroom any time he wanted to molest and rape me.  My mother was, in some ways, worse than him.  She never sexually abused me, but she regularly invaded my privacy under the banner of “for your own good.”  She searched my room, read my journals, monitored my emails.  If I asked for privacy, even as a teenager, she decided that meant I was hiding something and used it as an excuse to invade my privacy even more.  She would frequently take my bedroom and bathroom doors off the hinges, leaving me without any place to use the bathroom, shower, or change clothes without being on display.

So when I got away, having a space that was mine was a novelty.  It became the first outpost of safety for me.  No one could come into my space uninvited, so I was safe.  It was like I could finally breathe for the first time in my life.

Any time my space is invaded, it feels like abuse.  Technically I consented to ICM’s inspection, but it was because I felt like I couldn’t say no.  I have my parents’ compliance training to thank for that, I think.  I felt like I couldn’t say no to ICM, so I let her in, the same way I let my father into my room sometimes.  In both cases, it felt like there was someone in power who was going to do what they wanted regardless of how I felt about it, so it was better to be compliant so you wouldn’t get punished.

The inspection was really demeaning, too.  I mean, for starters, I’m almost 28 years old.  I’ve been living on my own in the world for most of the past 10 years, and no one’s ever suggested I was incapable of that (besides my family, and they don’t count).  But that felt like the entire implication of this inspection.  If my appliances didn’t work, I’d get my landlady or her partner to come fix it.  My kitchen may be cluttered since we have very little cabinet space, but it’s clean, so keep your bitchy comments about “define clean” to yourself.  Yes, my toilet is clean; I take responsibility for that since I spend so much quality time with it.  Yes, my door works just fine–don’t let it hit ya where the good lord split ya.  I had to tell her that no, she could not just walk into my roommates’ bedroom because they don’t know who she is or what she’s doing here, and one or both of them might not be wearing pants.

I did tell her that she couldn’t go in my bedroom, which I guess is something.  But what I wanted to tell her was that she couldn’t come in my house because it’s my house and it’s rude as fuck to just announce that you’re coming to inspect someone else’s house.  I mean, Christ, under state law, landlords are required to give advance notice of rental inspections, so why is it okay for her to just say that she’s doing an inspection today?  She never asked if it was okay.  If she had asked, I probably wouldn’t have been so triggered by it.

But she didn’t ask.  Neither did my mother or my father.  And that’s not okay.

And now I’m in PTSD-land.  It feels like everything’s a trigger, and I’m very on edge.  It frustrates me because I want my ability to identify and understand the trigger to make it stop being a trigger.  It frustrates me that it doesn’t always work like that.  It frustrates me that I can’t logic my way through this.



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Dear A,

We still feel completely devastated.  I don’t know why I’m telling you that except who else do I have to tell?  There’s no one left.  No one who knows me at all.  I think I’ve always been afraid of being alone, and now I am.  But it’s what I wanted, too, isn’t it?  I can’t sort out why.  Maybe to prove I could survive it.  Maybe because I was too afraid of being hurt.  Maybe because it’s easier.  Maybe so I wouldn’t owe anyone anything.  Maybe because I think I deserve it.  Maybe because I feel the need to inflict pain on myself.  Maybe because I didn’t want to inflict my pain on other people.  Maybe because I didn’t want to need anything from anyone.  Maybe because it’s just easier to be alone than to navigate relationships and attachments.  Maybe all of that.  Maybe even more.

Today I walked through downtown, and it was all I could do not to cry in public.  It feels like I’m dying, but I can’t even name what hurts.

I hate myself for feeling like this.  What a fucked-up freak.  I yelled at you about how coercing switches was a boundary violation, but I’m hurt that you respected the boundary I set by ending the therapy relationship.  I told you before that I create impossible situations, but I could never explain it to you so you understood.  This is the kind of thing I meant.  I set up these situations where there’s no way for either of us to win, and every possible outcome inflicts pain.

I have to be pretty goddamn twisted to be upset that you didn’t violate my boundaries.  I guess that’s the only kind of “love” I’ve ever known.  If you don’t force your way into my life, you must not really care about me that much.  Chase me, catch me, violate me.  Hell, when my father violated me and I resisted, maybe I wanted that too.  Maybe I secretly wanted him to force himself on me to prove he loved me.  Maybe I really am that fucked up.

The alternative explanation is I’m just an attention whore.  Maybe I said I was quitting therapy just to get your attention.  Maybe I never intended to quit because I didn’t think you would just let me walk away like that.  Maybe I wanted to make you feel bad so I wouldn’t be the only one hurting, so I wouldn’t be alone with the pain.  Maybe I really am that cold and manipulative.

Either way, I’m a bad person.

I honestly don’t know which of these is true.  I don’t know why I’m feeling these floods of unbearable feelings.  I don’t know what I want or why.  I don’t know what I am anymore.  It’s all a blurry mess: “The absolute erodes.  The boundary, the wall around the self erodes.”  (Louise Gluck)


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From my journal

Yesterday it took 5 hours to get to A’s.  I was cold and wet and couldn’t get warm, and I was crying because I couldn’t deal with my life and the rain was getting harder.  She kept trying to take care of me.  I let her give me a couple of blankets and a mug of hot water, but I purposely “forgot” about the water, never even touched it.  She asked if I would let her take me home.  It took me a minute, but I nodded.  Then her car wouldn’t start, so she called me a cab and gave me the money to pay for it.  She wanted to make me some soup while I was waiting, but I said no.

Now I feel almost unbearable shame and guilt.  I feel like I manipulated her.  I could’ve gotten home on the bus; it wouldn’t have killed me.  Did I cry to make her feel sorry for me?  I wanted her to rescue me.  I always want somebody to rescue me, but I’m not supposed to want it, I’m not supposed to let anyone actually do it.

But I couldn’t have known what she would offer, could I?  She’s a grown-up, so she can make her own boundaries and decide what she’s willing to do.

But you cried on purpose, didn’t you?  You know you wanted her to feel sorry for you.  You wanted her to save you.  You’re supposed to be a fucking grown-up.  You know you could’ve made it home on your own.  So you would’ve been in pain, so what?  Lots of people are in pain, and they don’t make people take care of them.  You should’ve said no.  You didn’t even argue.

But it should be a good thing that I let her help instead of saying no.

No, you manipulated her.  You were suddenly fine once she said she’d take you home.  That proves you weren’t really upset, you were just being manipulative.

I was relieved.  That’s normal.  If I was suddenly fine afterwards, then why am I such a mess now?

You’re making excuses.  You’re manipulative, and now you owe her.  How are you gonna make that right?

I can’t.  All I can do is be grateful.

You should be ashamed.

I am.


The memory that keeps coming up is from 2nd or 3rd grade, shortly after my parents divorced and my mother’s rages really got out of control.  Stupidly, I told her when she yelled, it scared me because I was afraid she’d hurt us (me or my sisters).  She said she’d stop yelling and told me if she did yell again, tell her I was scared and she’d stop.

The next time she yelled, I asked her to please stop yelling because I was scared.  Instead of stopping screaming, she got angrier.  She said she never hurt us, and I just said I was scared she would hurt us to control her.  She screamed and threw kitchen stuff at me.  I remember standing with my back against the wall across from the kitchen door, too scared to move, praying nothing would hit me.  I was so hurt and confused by her accusation.  I hadn’t lied, and I wasn’t trying to hurt her or control her.  I was terrified, and I didn’t want to be anymore.

I ended up even more terrified, with shame and guilt added in.


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Take 2

So. New blog.

Today I found out that while I was away, my whole treatment team read my blog. Apparently another employee who’s not on my team found it, recognized whose it was, and told my team.

I don’t even know how to react to that.

My immediate reaction was anger and fear. It was MY space, and they invaded it. They wouldn’t dream of reading my hard-copy journal, so why would they think it was okay to read my blog?

Then there was a little bit of guilt. I’m not always the nicest person, especially when I’m struggling. I get irritable and bitchy. I don’t recall saying anything particularly vicious about them, but I know I vented sometimes, particularly about my frustrations with P. When she was telling me all this, she made a point of saying, several times, that she wasn’t offended by any of it. I tend to think that’s a sign that the other person was hurt or offended, but I probably shouldn’t make assumptions.

And being mean on my blog is better than being mean out loud, right?

For years, my mother secretly read my journals. I didn’t figure it out until 8th or 9th grade. I was having emotional flashbacks to that and simultaneously trying to stay calm and in control.

Blogs and journals aren’t quite the same thing: a blog, after all, assumes an audience. I put it out there in the public domain. There’s not that expectation of privacy you have with a journal. And I didn’t really attempt to disguise my identity or anyone else’s.

Still, it feels like my space isn’t mine anymore. I thought about making it password-protected, but I still wouldn’t feel safe there. Now I have to carve out a new space for myself.

I know that, as a person who dissociates, I put a lot of walls around parts of myself and parts of my life. Everyone does that to some extent; exempli gratia, you probably don’t talk about your sex life with your boss. But I don’t know when it crosses a line from a normal, healthy boundary like that to a pathological wall.

There are parts of my life I want to keep separate. I don’t want people I know in real life reading my blog. It functions for me like a support group, and I need that. I need an audience, just not my treatment team. I assume they wouldn’t follow me to a support group and eavesdrop outside the door. I know that’s not quite an equivalent situation, but that’s how it feels to me. Also, benign voyeurism is human nature, I think

As a result of my parents’ total disrespect for my boundaries, I’m overly boundaried. (That’s not a word. Oh well.) But I can’t tell whether that’s what’s going on now. My mother introject part is telling me I’m being crazy and overreacting, but part(s) of me also feel like its legitimate to be upset. Just because something in the present brings up bad memories from the past doesn’t necessarily mean my reactions to the present event are invalid.

I just wish I could tell when I was overreacting to the present.

P did say that A, my trauma therapist from outside the program, declined to read it. I appreciate that she gets it. A little while before I went to the trauma unit, I mentioned to her that I have a blog. She asked if she could read it, and I said no. I was really proud of myself for that–I have a LOT of trouble saying no. I don’t know if she was remembering that conversation or just felt generally that reading it would violate my privacy and trust. Either way, I’m glad she didn’t read it.

Apparently Dr. M, my therapist at the trauma unit, knew all of this, although I’m not sure if she actually read the blog. But from what P told me, she advised my team not to tell me while I was in the hospital. That pisses me off, and I’m not quite sure why. Something about lack of autonomy and for-your-own-good dictatorship.

A week and a half before I left, there was a fire alarm on the unit. After the alarm, a therapist’s phone was missing. They went though everyone’s rooms, ransacked all our stuff, and strip-searched all of us. Dr. M didn’t understand when I told her it wasn’t my space anymore and didn’t feel safe. I got frustrated because I couldn’t find any other language to describe it differently. Maybe it’s a concept you can’t understand without a trauma history.

This feels like a similar situation in terms of space and perceived safety.

P kept trying to get me to react while she was telling me all this. I told her I didn’t know how I felt about it yet. Actually, it was that I was having too many reactions at once, and that’s hard for me to sort through until things calm down internally, and I usually need time alone.

I also didn’t want to get mad at my team. Not sure what that’s about. God knows I usually have NO problem getting mad. I had no trouble getting mad at Dr. M for not telling me. Maybe it’s a proximity thing–I feel safe getting mad at Dr. M because she’s not her and I’ll probably never see her again. But I’ve gotten mad at my team here before, so I don’t know why I want to avoid anger at them now. I will confess I was glad P felt guilty.

P asked if I would share my reactions once I figure them out. I told her probably not. I don’t want to talk about it with them–makes me squirmy. It’s like they saw me naked, but worse. I’m not ashamed of what they saw, nothing is wrong with it, but I’d rather keep it private and well-covered.

So that’s why I have a new blog. No names this time: mine, my team’s, the program’s, nothing. It’s what I need to do to feel safe again.


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